As we continue on our journey of the Eight-Limbed Yoga tree, the Yama branch offers us the third Yama of Asteya. Asteya translates to non-stealing, non-hoarding, and generosity.
When we think of stealing, we mostly think of material items. Surely, we know it's wrong to steal money or materials from people or the companies we work for. But did you ever consider stealing time, energy, or ideas to be a part of that as well?
I have quite a few stories of stealing material items. The first time was at a Thrifty's drugstore in Silver Lake. I saw this cute, little, green army guy and I put him in my pocket. I couldn't have been older than four-years old. As soon as we got into the car, I took out my new toy and my Mom asked me where I got it from. Well, Cyndi marched me right back into that store and made me apologize to the store manager. Talk about mortifying! The next time, I was little older. I was in fourth-grade hanging out with some older middle-schoolers and we ditched school one day. On the way back from the movie theatre, we stopped by a Robinsons'-May store to check out the new Hypercolor t-shirts that were all the rage. Well, this was right before all the stores had anti-theft devices on their clothing. So. . . I stuffed the shirt up my sweatshirt. Straight-up stole the shirt that I had been wanting. I was coming from a place of lack, now that I look back. My Mom and I just moved into an apartment after being homeless for about a month. I felt like I had nothing. And I wanted to be cool in front of these new friends of mine. I could never bring myself to wear the shirt. I think I wore it two or three times. Shameful.
Inside the Yoga Sutras by Reverend Jaganath Carrera, he describes Asteya as something that happens when we look outside of ourselves for happiness. The desire to take something that does not belong to us is rooted in this sense of lack and unfairness in life. Another example, again, in fourth grade (it was a rough year for little KC,) I stole a pencil from Laurel's pencil box during Recess. Sorry, Laurel. It was me. I took it because I thought she had so much (rich kid) and I felt she wouldn't miss it or even notice it was gone. I have no idea what I was thinking, it's not like I could use the pencil at school. Everyone would know I took it. So, again. This place of lack and wanting to have something to make me happy. Instead of happiness, it just brought me shame.
Asteya not only means to not steal material items, but also not to steal people's time, energy, or ideas. If I'm constantly running late and apologizing to people for my tardiness, that is stealing. I am not valuing this other person's time or energy. In the credential and Master's Program, coming from an academic perspective, we were constantly reminded about plagiarism when writing our research papers. As a Special Education teacher, I always spoke to my students about using people's words for their own and how to avoid copying. I find it very important to acknowledge someone else's ideas or creative asana poses. I make sure to give credit where credit is due. If not, then that is stealing; I would be taking credit for something that was not my own creation. If I'm ever inspired by another yoga teacher or writer, I like to acknowledge where that inspiration came from.
The last concept of Asteya is generosity. To take only what you need. To make sure you leave something for other people. Before we left California, we gave away all of our furniture, household items, plants, and bikes. Basically, everything we couldn't fit into the van. Giving things away allowed me to live more free and not allow my possessions to possess me. I can see that many of my behaviors such as collecting purses, shoes, clothing, and cds, were a way for me to find external happiness because of this is lack I had from childhood. As a child, I never wanted for anything, I was always clothed, fed, and had plenty of toys. But I still had this void to fill, which carried into adulthood. I have learned that my happiness does not come from things, but from me. As I continue on my path to minimalism, I find that I feel less cluttered. When there is less clutter in the house, my mind feels less cluttered as well. Which does wonders for my anxiety. I'm not so worried about my things anymore. Things come and go. I'm learning to really value the things I do have and only keep things I truly love.
So, again. . . we practice Asteya on and off our mat. We come to class on time, we don't leave people waiting, and we do not take their ideas or words for our own. Inspiration comes from many places. Be sure to acknowledge the teachers we have, the words and ideas that are not our own, time that we take that does not belong to us, and material items we think that won't be missed.
Stay tuned for next week: Brahmacharya.
Stay well. Be well.